Oliver: AOC's endorsement of Sanders solidifies the youth vote

Young and working class people thrust Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ campaign into the spotlight in 2015, and they will be the reason why he assumes the presidency in November 2020. New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s official endorsement of the Sanders campaign on Saturday, Oct. 19 at his Bernie’s Back Rally in Queens is yet another sign that young progressives are Feelin’ the Bern this election cycle. 

Many people saw this endorsement coming, as Ocasio-Cortez, who is known as AOC, worked on the Sanders campaign in 2016; however, the official endorsement came before people were expecting it.

“It was a moment of clarity for me, I think, personally saying what role do I want to play, and I want to be a part of a mass movement,” AOC said in an NBC News interview with Sanders.  

AOC’s candid nature and warm personality excite young liberals. She adamantly rejects the idea of status quo politics and fights for a future young people believe in — one of hope, justice and equality for all Americans. Her climate resolution, the Green New Deal, exemplifies how she has worked with young people to tackle big issues like the climate crisis. 

If elected, Sanders would be the oldest president in U.S. history. By November 2020, he will be 79 years old. Sanders suffered a heart attack that resulted in two stents being placed in his chest just a few weeks ago. Some thought that concerns about the incident would lead voters to shift their support towards a different progressive candidate like Senator Elizabeth Warren. 

A new National Democratic primary poll shows a different result. After a whirlwind couple of weeks for the Sanders campaign, 25% of those surveyed by Emerson Polling supported Sanders in the national Democratic primary. Former Vice President Joseph Biden sits just a few percentage points in front of Sanders at 27%, while Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, is on Sanders’s heels polling at 21%. The survey, taken from Oct. 18-21, showed that Sanders’s heart attack did not set him back.

AOC’s endorsement of Sanders will only propel him further. Her base of diverse young supporters likely already holds shared values with the Sanders campaign. Some just wanted her seal of approval. 

University of Oregon student Remi Cook backed Warren during this election cycle until AOC’s endorsement reminded her of Sanders’s history in progressive politics. “It helped me see that everyone really views Bernie as the go-to on important progressive politics. Initially I was more for Warren, but now I feel more comfortable with Bernie,” Cook said. 

Cook is not alone. Emerson Polling showed Sanders’ strong support from young voters between 18-29 years old at 47%, polling far ahead of his opponents Warren at 17% and Biden at 12%. This is not new for Sanders, as in 2016, his campaign relied heavily upon the support of young people outpacing his opponents, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and then-candidate Donald Trump by thousands of votes. 

The Sanders campaign might not surge in the polls from this endorsement, but he has raised the most money out of any Democratic candidate, outraising Biden by millions. Relying on a large base of small sums of money, his third quarter numbers indicate the power of his campaign. 

As a grassroots campaign that relies on expanding the electorate, AOC and Sanders are focused on spreading a message that already resonates with young people to millions more. These people are often absent from polling predictions. As we have seen with Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, when young people vote, Democrats win. AOC’s endorsement will boost Sanders into the White House in 2020.